The Rundown: Lester Throws Complete Game to Split Twin Bill, Makes Pick-Off Move, Trevor Cahill Makes Conspicuous Out, Magic Number to 11

Jon Lester was surgical on the mound Tuesday night. The way he helped the Cubs split the twin bill, he may as well have been Dr. Ben Carson. The Cubs came into the day’s second game having lost 3 straight and finding themselves reeling just a bit. If you ever wondered why they handed Lester all that money, I think you just got your answer.

The big lefty allowed only one run on 5 hits and went the distance on 111 pitches, only 6 of which came in the 9th inning. It wasn’t always easy though, as Lester looked a little shaky to open the 7th inning. Aramis Ramirez and Francisco Cervelli both singled and a Michael Morse GIDP pushed a run across. Lester then hit Sean Rodriguez and uncorked a wild pitch to Jung Ho Kang that moved the runner into scoring position.

You could also see Lester locking things down at that point though, as if he was a tomcat who had finally tired of batting his prey and was now ready for his meal. He struck Kang out with a little high heat at 93 mph and it was all academic from there. Neil Walker popped the first pitch he saw in 8th up to Starlin Castro at 2nd and Lester struck out Josh Harrison and Starling Marte to move to the 9th.

Two pitches was all it took to record two outs in the final frame, as Andrew McCutchen and Aramis Ramirez paid the price for their aggressiveness. Cervelli was a bit more patient, but he fared no better in the end. His lone swing created a foul ball and the catcher struck out looking on a strike that looked to be a bit low. Thing is, Jon Lester is usually going to get that call in a 2-strike count at the end of a game and Francisco Cervelli, well, he’s going to be unhappy most of the time.

But it wasn’t just his throws to the plate that had people talking.

Lester throws to first

Hold on, that can’t be right. Can you check on that for me? Well, I’ll be damned, he did. Sort of. With two out in the 3rd inning, Starling Marte took a healthy lead from first base and then just took off with Lester staring right at him. I mean, the southpaw was just standing there and hadn’t even flinched toward the plate. This was either very ballsy or very dumb on Marte’s part, but maybe he just thought the yips would get the better of his opponent.

Lester’s first move was actually to run at Marte to cut off his advance before lofting the ball to Rizzo and inducing a brief rundown. It might not have been the prettiest thing in the world, but it was nice to see nonetheless. The same can’t be said of the performance of another Cubs pitcher.

Cahill thrown out at 1B…from RF

In case you missed the matinee half of the double-header, you may not have seen middle-relief man Trevor Cahill’s exploits. Sure, he pitched two clean innings after replacing the ineffective Jason Hammel, but it’s what he did with the bat that will be remembered.

I already wrote about it yesterday, so maybe go take a look at that. Pretty awful, right? Had that happened to Matt Garza, he’d probably have gone on some sort of unwritten-rules screed. Come to think of it, I’d like to see this happen to Matt Garza.

These go to 11

The Cubs’ win lowered their magic number to 12, and I went to bed thinking it would remain that way. Playing in San Francisco, the Giants held a 5-3 lead over the Reds with 2 outs in the top of the 7th, so I wasn’t counting on much. But then the Reds hung a 5-spot on the streaking Giants and went on to win 9-8 on the strength of a Todd Frazier home run in the 10th.

You know what that means…

At the risk of marginalizing the procedure, I think a lot of Cubs fans would have rather endured a spinal tap than seen their team drop two straight in Pittsburgh after having lost 2 in Philadelphia to split the series there. What a difference a game makes though, huh? From possibly dropping 1 1/2 games to SF to gaining a 1/2 game, fortunes changed dramatically as the result of that stellar performance from Lester.

The Cubs now have only 18 games remaining and the Giants 17, which means that even a 7-11 record for the Cubs down the stretch forces the Giants to go 14-3 just to tie. I feel pretty good about that.

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